The Dancer Upstairs (2002)   3/53/53/53/53/5

Javier Bardem in The Dancer Upstairs (2002)

Malkovich's Slow Dance

Agustin Rejas (Javier Bardem) was once a lawyer but quit to become a policeman, a decision which saw him work the border control before being promoted to detective. And it is as a detective he is assigned to investigate and track down terrorist Ezequiel (Abel Folk) whose calling card is a dead dog hung in the street with dynamite in its throat. At the same time Agustin finds himself in an unusual position as whilst his marriage is solid he is attracted to his daughter's ballet teacher Yolande (Laura Morante).

That synopsis for "The Dancer Upstairs" is short and sweet, a cop, a terrorist and a romance but in fairness there is a lot more to it than that. The whole storyline is an interesting one with nice touches such as Agustin having met Ezequiel five years earlier when he was working border control and Ezequiel was just a professor who passed through one day. There is also Agustin's relationship with his wife who is determined to have a nose job, which might sound like a touch of comedy but isn't, it is used to set up Agustin's calm mannerisms as in the way he deals with her constant mention of her nose. All of which combines to make an interesting movie which keeps your watching as you want to know how it is going to play out.

Laura Morante in The Dancer Upstairs (2002)

A big reason for that is down to Javier Bardem who has something about him which makes the character he plays fascinating. Bardem makes Agustin a very natural character, a thinker, a quiet man but a clever man who has feelings and it is this which makes him so interesting. Bardem's is not the only good performance and Laura Morante who plays ballet teacher Yolande also having the naturalness which makes her scenes with Bardem some of the best in the movie with a real spark between them.

But "The Dancer Upstairs" has a problem and that is it is slow going with scenes which not so much drag on but could have done with an injection of something to just make them quicker. It is a shame as director John Malkovich and cinematographer José Luis Alcaine create a wonderful look with great depth and artistry but at times it feels like the flow of the story has been sacrificed due to that need to deliver a few more beautifully crafted seconds.

What this all boils down to is that all the parts of "The Dancer Upstairs" work, it is well acted, it looks good and has an interesting story. But these parts don't quite work together with the end result being too slow.